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Wealthy Eccentric

A wealthy eccentric died and left a million dollars to his nephew, John. When the will was read at the lawyer’s office, the lawyer said to John, “According to your uncle’s instructions, payment of your inheritance will depend on choices that you must make.” The lawyer held his two fists out in front of him and asked, “Do you choose what is in my right hand or in my left hand?”

John decided to take what was in the attorney’s right hand. The lawyer opened his left hand to reveal a gold coin and a silver coin. “Had you chosen this hand,” he said, “you would have received a substantial share in a gold mine or a silver mine in Chile.” Then he opened his right hand to reveal a nut and a coffee bean. “These represent a million dollars’ worth of nuts or coffee from Brazil,” said the attorney. “Which do you choose?” John decided on the nuts.

A week went by before John arrived in Brazil to take charge of his holdings. In the interim, fire destroyed a huge warehouse where the nuts that John had inherited were stored and coffee prices doubled. Since John hadn’t gotten around to insuring his holdings, he soon was bankrupt.

He barely had enough for his airfare home to New York or Los Angeles, where he could stay with a friend. He chose Los Angeles.

Just before he took off, the New York plane came out on the runway—it was a brand-new super jet. For the connecting flight to Los Angeles, the plane was a 1928 Ford trimotor with a sway back that took half a day to get off the ground. It was filled with crying children and tethered goats. Over the Andes one engine fell off. Our man crawled up to the cockpit and said, “Let me out if you want to save your lives. Give me a parachute.”

The pilot agreed but said, “On this airline, anybody who bails out must wear two chutes.”

John jumped from the plane and as he fell he tried to make up his mind which rip cord to pull. Finally he chose the one on the left. It was rusty, and the wire pulled loose. He pulled the other handle. The chute opened, but its shroud lines snapped. In desperation the poor fellow cried out, “St. Francis save me!”

Suddenly a great hand reached down from Heaven, seized the poor man’s wrist and let him dangle in midair. Then a gentle voice asked, “St. Francis Xavier or St. Francis of Assisi?”

Bits & Pieces, May 25, 1995, pp. 6-8

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